Introduction To The Different Waves Of Feminism History Essay

Discussed here are indicating the different waves of feminism and the change of women roles, mainly the changes brought to womens lives by World War II. As a conclusion the necessity of feminism and the present and a reflection on the position of modern women are discussed.

Feminism developed and the way roles of women changed in the past centuries is show, describing in depth the feminist background. The feminists always believed in equality between men and women .For many years the feminist focus was on ending the social and cultural wall between both sexes and building an equal society.

However, sometimes the feminist group didn’t agree on what equality consisted, for example whatever was sexual freedom, or career development? Some people who label themselves feminists consider that the fight for equality is over and done with, others just consider society has general patriarchial limitations.

Has feminism today came to be antiquated?

Is present feminism a powerful force for advancements or is the feminism movement mentioned with anger and regret?

These questions are differential between and answers judged.

The aim of the constitutional and women’s rights share the overall arguments related to justice, freedom and equality. The main focus of the first wave was fundamentally on achieving the right to vote and then along with the second wave of feminism the movement focused on fighting equal rights.

However the two movements didn’t take their commonality as regret.

The responses of some feminists (including Elizabeth Candy Stanton) in the first wave related on letting black men vote declared a dark atmosphere of racism at the beginning of the feminist movement.

In that time many feminist organizations declared boundaries in the integration of white and black members. That attitude took black feminists to feel excluded in some groups and a result they created a group of their own. In 1973 the National Black Organization was founded.

These fractures leaded to the third wave of feminism where they believed that women of many colors, religions and also cultural backgrounds. This movement began in 1960 and last until the 1970’s.

The third wave adopted contradictions and collisions, embracing the difference and the change.

Chapter I: Waves of Feminism

The first wave of feminism took place in the United States. The movement started in 1848 and continued in the 1960’s. The main goal was to achieve the right to vote and the right to use birth control (See fig.1 August 26th, 1920: Ladies Vote Free! )

Seventy years past since the Revolutionary war. Elizabeth Cady Stanton established the Seneca Convention that discussed the social, religious and civil rights of women. In this declaration many topics like women did had the right to vote, the fact that married women had no property rights, divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women and other more aspects that were debated.

However religion had some influence over some initial social developments that women had done in the beginning of the 19th century. This first wave was finished when the U.S. Constitution gave way to allow women the right to vote. This huge achievement by the movement also originated the new reforms in healthcare, workplace, education and professions.


August 26th, 1920: Ladies Vote Free!

Second Wave of Feminism:

A new era began in 1960’s when activism was introduced by student activity related to the Vietnam War as well as the women’s dislike about their restrictions and career discriminations. Comparing to the first wave, this movement gained much more organizations in relation to political acceptance and theories.

According to Simone de Beauvoir “The whole of feminine history has been man-made.” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949). Beauvoir declared that this can be showed from a general history overview. In her opinion, men control the lives of women, and they will only permit women to take control when it will be convenient for them. She also reports that ” men have always controlled women and their status in society” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949). They always had control in marriage and childbirth. Women also had a huge influence in these issues. Men, controlling can determine if a woman is allowed to have an abortion even if the women are the ones who put their health in danger by getting unsupervised abortions or bring themselves overburdened by excessive pregnancies.

Beauvoir also mentions that “women have never created anything great and the situation of woman has never prevented the flowering of great feminine personalities.” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949) Beauvoir felt that women had not created great things, not because they were unable to, but because they obviously were not given the opportunity to do so.

In 1966 the National Organization for Women ( NOW), originated the biggest alliance emerged from the second wave. The employment opportunity commission failed on the origin to create the equality on the workplace rather than concentrating on racial discrimination.

When this association denied to eliminate the gender of job advertisements, the activist Betty Friedan and other feminists created the National Organization for Women. The ideals constitute on focus in white, middle class women freedom, gender equalities in workplace and the access of the equal rights amendment.

Back then, the number of feminists was quite reasonable, so they started to look into the law to institute gender reforms. The debated issues such as abortion, domestic violence and rape turned to be the ahead of the feminist platforms. Consciousness-raising, women could difference common struggles and gain encouragement while feminism were getting bigger until they got to a point of a mass movement . From this stage, the slogan “the personal is political” favorably assumed the goals of second-wave feminism ( See fig.2 Second-wave feminists march during the Women’s Liberation parade in 1970, ) The first national women’s liberation conference was in 1968 and it took place in Chicago. In the 1970’s the activists started to collect what the seeded. In 1972, Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court legalized abortion via Roe v. Wade in 1973. But as the movement expands, it also exposed fractures within feminist ideologies.

Third wave feminism:

Third wave feminism started in the beginning of 1980s and lasted until 1990’s. This was also the beginning of a new generation of feminism and new ideals. “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; … identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results.” (Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 1990, p. 25) In consideration of understanding the “third wave” there as to be a good understands of the “second wave”. The second wave feminism focused mainly on the insert of women in traditionally male-dominated territories. This new wave of feminism questioned and explored common definitions of women’s status and sexuality “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute. ” (Rebecca West, Mr. Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice,” The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982).

Fig 2

Second-wave feminists march during the Women’s Liberation parade in 1970,

This movement happens out of the sexuality subject and women’s bodies in political discussion and cultural representation. This new generation of young women, known as “post-feminists” despised the idea of feminism and defined feminism themselves on their own terms and ideas. The acceptance of the idea of defining it to themselves was related to sexuality and sexual expressions. This was the attitude that brought up the “third wave feminism”.

The change of women roles also influenced fashion. Silhouettes became slimmer and straighter, the waist was less tight, and the hats became bigger. As women became more independent, dresses and underwear became less constructing and more wearable and functional.

If we look back in history, in the medieval women’s clothing consisted of long heavy dresses, quite tight and in same cases two people were needed to help dress the lady.

Women were seen as property of the father and when they married they became property of their husbands. They had few rights and they had to behave and be the perfect wife. They were also not encouraged to attend college or have any sort of education, and the ones who were accomplished or had more knowledge than men were seen by society as manly and witches.

Due do women being controlled by their husband, their clothes were also quite restricted and uncomfortable. They were very restricted in their movements. However things got better for women .After the World War I due to women’s efforts in war by replacing men’s jobs, women gain the right to vote. That also had a major influence in fashion. Clothes had become simple. Dresses were simple with plain straight across neckline, no sleeves and no two side seams, skirt lengths were always well below the knee so they were less restricted. The hair style also changed and was as short as it had ever been.

Chapter II: How World War II changed the role of women:

Prior to World war women’s life style was quite limited with rules and regulation. The idea of going to a college or leave the house wasn’t such a great idea.

In 1940’s women’s role was in their home. They had no great decision to make and consequently no option what so ever. In the movie Mona Lisa Smile ( Mona Lisa Smile, Directed by Mike Newel, 2003), women build up choices and challenged the laws of the society.

This atmosphere was just about to change when women were motivated to join the workforce. During this times, war turned to a be a key point for women battle for equal rights. Finally women were seen as individuals with other skills outside the kitchen. In December the 7th, 1942 war was declared. Pearl Harbor was bombed, so this lead America into Second World War .The beginning of Word War II started a new chapter in women lives. Husbands, sons, brothers and fathers were sending out to combat in Europe, many men needed supplies so that was when women left their kitchens and went into the workforce. The reasons why they accept those jobs were not only related to patriotism but also to do with economic benefits, social interaction and most of all independence.

Alongside World War II the number of women that worked abroad from home at paying work was between 25% to 36%. More than ever married women, mothers and other women founded more jobs than before the war. This reason was to do with absence of the majority of men who were fighting in war or were working in the war production industries. Many women were now capable to take men’s positions at work. “Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels” (Bob Thaves , Frank and Ernest, 1982) on the poster “Rosie riveter” (See fig.3. Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Rosie the Riveter, 1942) the general idea is to promote the patriotism and the idea of not being feminine.

A huge amount of women moved to Washington in order to profit government office and reinforced jobs. Many jobs were taken by women in Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, since America was exploring nuclear weapons. A minor amount of women benefited after June 1942 when the executive order 8802 declared by the president Roosevelt after A. Philip Randolph blackmailed a march on Washington against racial discrimination.

Fig 3

Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Rosie the Riveter,, 1942

Many women now were settling on working in non-traditional fields. The first girl baseball league was originated at this time. This was indeed a time of change. Women were given more rights and consequently more respect. They were not only workers but also mothers that had to deal with their children after and before work and still be housewives.

The conditions that place America industry beside the war machine were endless. Alongside with ten million men in the war and other rest of the male community at work, was obvious that the only way U.S.A would get a victory was if it admitted much more women for employments. The country called women to undertake those jobs building planes, ships and tanks in order to combat Hitler and his army. The Second World War was established on production and it was a great opportunity to get women into the industry. The government joins forces with industry and that leaded to join forces with women organization and media. The aim was to get the labor force from women by convincing theme that it was their “patriotic duty”. Yet patriotism wasn’t a reasonable reason that the war monopoly used to convince women to undertake those jobs.

Recruitments program were made in order to build up the economic prosperity to seduce women to workforce. Posters had a big impact in the war as it was a way to embellishment war work and make women realized how important was to work in the non traditional jobs. There was a huge pressure on women as they were consistently reminded that their, sons, husbands and brothers were in danger considering the fact they weren’t getting any necessities they needed at the time. For instance the slogans like “we can do it” (See fig 4 We can do it poster, poster ) and “women the war needs you!” (See fig.5 Become a nurse: your country needs you poster, 1940, )were just to persuade theme that America needs were bigger than their personal comfort.

Fig 4

Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Rosie the Riveter,, 1942

Fig 5

Become a nurse: your country needs you poster, 1940,

Women in Military works:

Women worked in several positions directly to support of military efforts. Military women weren’t allowed to be in the combat positions, yet that didn’t avoid that some would be in harm’s way. For instances same nurses helping near or in the combat zones or on ships some were injured or even killed. In this time many women were encouraged to become nurses or Red Cross nurses, so they could contribute in the war. Around 74,000 women helped the American Army and Navy Nurse Corps.

Many others just worked in the military departments in the typical women’s work as secretaries or cleaning. Others just took same men’s jobs (except combat work) to release more men to join the war. The amount of women contributing for this war were enormous, 140,000 women join the Army, 100,000 joined the Navy, 23,000 were Coast Guards, 1,000 joined the air force, 74,000 joined the Army and Navy Nurse Corps and more than 1,000 women were pilots in America Air Force in the Women Air Force service pilots, yet it was acknowledge as civil service workers and weren’t acknowledged until. But America wasn’t the only country to take a significant percentage of women to the air forces. The Soviet Union and Britain also had the same attitude.

However a significant number of women that served the WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots) weren’t recognized by their military service but as civil service workers. This wasn’t recognized until the 1970’s.

Women pilots were also called to support Britain and Soviet Union and their air forces. Close by several military bases, there were the “victory girls”. This group of female would offer the military men their sexual services without charging a price.

This was the threat that the Military had created in order to appreciate all the effort that was made in the war. Women also played an important part in entertainment. They were two famous female entertainer of the war. One was Vera Lynn (See fig 6 Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again, The Very Best Of Vera Lynn Album, 1940, ) and Gracie Fields (See fig 7 Gracie Fields, ). Vera Lynn’s singing (“There’ll be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when”) brought major happiness to many in Britain. She was recognized as the “Forces Sweetheart”. Gracie Fields was another favorite with the forces.


Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again, The Very Best of Vera Lynn Album, 1940,


Gracie Fields,

In America, July 1944 more than 19 million women were hired. However millions of women were employed same didn’t had the same standards as the male companions. The National War Labor Board in 1942 made a major effort to end with same inequalities for instance women’s income was still lower than man.

These standards were debated and many workers had the opinion that the normal women income was acceptable. Others in the other hand thought that it wasn’t fair because they had the opinion that women’s tasks were easier, which it wasn’t true. Women joined the labor force in the Second World War and they were often mentioned as the production soldiers.

This had to do with the fact that women worked 48 hours weekly, with the frequently extra hours they done, with the fact that they only had one day off per week and also because most vacations were cancelled.

In August 1945 the was finally ended. Over 1945 millions of people jumped out of the streets to celebrate this victory. Millions of men could finally return back their families and homes. Although the war was over the war machine had frozen millions of women to work, but this fact didn’t only depend on the post war economy it also depend on women attitude .Women no longer need to leave their homes and family to work. Now they could just stay at home looking for their families and do they home duties. Yet for same women that wasn’t an option.

War had given women’s independence and that was something they didn’t have before. They had gained a social and economic mobility and now they had the power to choose and change.

Three long years had pasted, women had to be submitted to long hours of work, small benefits, low cost quality of living and few child care facilities. It wasn’t predictable how women would actually respond to the postwar period. Efficient women could earn £2.15 per week which for them it had seemed to be a good income. Yet for the same job men were paid more. Women had jobs as manufactures of heavy machinery, to welders in a shipyard. This new positions also started for the very first time and later on gave women a salary of their own.

In 1943 at the Rolls Royce factory many female strikers went on a street in Glasgow, showing their discontent. They carried eggs and tomatoes to be throw out, but the manifest soon ended when they realized how bad women were being paid .The women had their victory as they went back to their jobs on the income of a male semi-skilled worker.

Many people had the opinion that after the war women would voluntarily return to their homes. Others saw the old American housewife became a production soldier. When women received better income this improved a new ability for women to became more self-esteem. Women were given an opportunity to make their own decisions, without the asking their husbands, brothers, or fathers permission to do so. The initial situation was their concern. Now they could be able to managed their month budget and spend it in where they would like to. For the first time in the human history women had jobs that were never seemed to suit theme and in addition to that they were also been accepted in society

Status, gender and religion


Feminist movements aim to improve the status of women and rendering women visible in the social system. This treatment of women was poor in 1980, appalling in 1983 and is unforgivable in 1989.

The status of women in the profession is another significant concern. At the APSA AGM in 1997, the Women’s Caucus started a survey of the status of women to be conducted by the APSA President with the assistance of departmental heads. Women were still concentrated at the bottom of the academic hierarchy, well symbolized in Level A positions, and with only one woman at Level E. Of the current doctoral students, 38.2% were women, as compared in 1979. Women were best symbolized as political-science undergraduates, where their numbers have swelled greatly than at graduate levels.

Gender Identity:

Gender identity is an assignment of individuals to a gender category: female or male. The genders exhibited unique characteristics framed traditionally. However after World War II the identity of women underwent transformations.

Women had certain characteristics that defined their gender. These definitions changed since World War II.

Women were no longer expected to be creatures of emotion. They began expressing their abilities of intellect and cognition.

The perception women are expected to present as “feminine” was becoming obsolete. They broke the shackles of theory traditional looks and began manifesting themselves in a fashion that portrayed them as equal to men.

In most places, men overtly or tacitly allow women to wear “men’s clothing. During the war, women participated un the “the War Effort”

Women were expected to household chores. If they work outside the home, are expected to work as support” positions secretary, nurse, teacher in a K-12 school, social worker. But now they took up jobs like well-paid mechanics, engineers, attorneys, physicians and leaders of corporations anything except social workers or nurses.

Thus gender identity no longer followed gender explicit definitions. Gender identity ceased to be a prejudiced experience of fitting to a particular gender in our social system. Nowadays it is accepted that gender identity need not be compatible with our birth gender obligation.


The, “gender” implies to two meanings.

It might be defined as the sorts of actions that society determines to be adequate protocols set by previous generation

Gender identity is the totality of the ways by which they express their gender uniqueness

Most feminists debate that traditional gender roles are repressive for women.

For approximately 100 years women are fighting for equality. In the 1960’s second wave feminism and radical feminism, the most marked feminist movements elicited changes to the conventionally established feminine gender role. However, there is more to be achieved.

Although the position of women has advanced during the last century, bigotry is still prevalent: For instance, women are paid a lesser percentage of total income when compared to men. They occupy inferior job positions when compared to men. They still do most of the domestic tasks.

However, feminists consider these factors are dependant of gender. Of course, gender socialization throws light on

The kind of education women receive

The age at which women start their career

Number of working years

People who conflict with the feminists argue that in spite of many factors roles, the confirmation of prevalence of discrimination against working women is week.

Furthermore, there has been an awareness of Western culture, in current times that the female gender role is classified as:

A “stay at home-mother”

A “career woman”

In actuality, women are posed with a double burden: The need to harmonize job and child care reduces the spare time of women.

When feminism became an obvious protest movement in the 60’s, critics argued that women who wanted to adopt a conventional role will be discriminated in the future and coerced them to join the workforce. This is not an established truth as single parents are not given a chance due to economic necessity. In the beginning of the 21st century women who choose to live in the classical way of the house wife were acceptable to Western society. Female roles didn’t have any tolerance. The fact is that there is some chauvinism and bigotry against those who choose to stuck on to traditional female gender roles regardless of feminism.

There are many views and contradictions of gender identity. The feminists worked out many approaches of transforming those gender identities and carve out the implications and explain them from the dimension of the complexities of daily life.


From the early 1300’s until 1700’s, inquisition plan was to unify and organize the country by punishing people. It also attempted to convert the “non-believers” (like the Jewish, Muslims, Pagans, Moors) and destroyed those who did not follow the Church without question. During this time innocent people were killed and tortured for crimes against the church.

However women in the other hand were blamed for many sorts of things that happen even before they could even justify themselves. That was a dark era for many people, but was especially bad for women (See fig 8 Witches owed an apology Inquisition torture, )

For instances a governor’s wife could be questioned , killed and blamed of practicing witchcraft, if her husband was having an affair with a jealousy girlfriend of his wife .

Fig 8

Witches owed an apology Inquisition torture,

Even children were often put to death along with their mothers. That reason was because mothers taught their children what they know. Many women and child were stripped throwned into jails without food or water, to be either torture or killed.

Not long ago the Pope John the second made a public speech that apologized for the crimes committed by religion during the Inquisition and the Crusades. He also mentioned crimes that were committed against women during the inquisition period .However this apology will not cover the damage left behind, it just helped to heal the conflicts between the Catholic Church, and other religions as well.

Nowadays religion still has a big impact in people’s life’s, especially for women. For instance, the abortion law is still illegal in many countries where religion has a major influence in the vote. In Portugal the abortion law was recently legalized. ( See fig 9 Paula Rego , Swallows the Poisoned Apple painting , 1995, Pastel on paper, mounted on aluminum, 178 x 150 cm , )

The previous law made more than 4,000 women per year seeks for help in Spanish border clinic to do an abortion. These women are from a conservative background where their only chance of ending pregnancy is in illegal clinics and in for low income women to be submitted under very poor illegal clinic conditions. Portuguese women needing an abortion had to go abroad, hiding not just from the law but from a society itself.

In Ireland in 1992, a case occurred involving a pregnant teenager who threatened suicide if she did not had the choice of interrupt the pregnancy. This was a clear example to make people aware of the limits of the laws and what laws can be improvised. The couple was banned out of Ireland by the Supreme Court by doing an abortion in England

How to force a pregnant woman does not want to be a mother to be? Is it fair if religion or any state interferes with the women’s choices? O que nos conduz a uma segunda pergunta: até onde pode o estado interferir nas decisões individuais dos seus cidadãos?Ddoejhvgdcvjbcjc


Paula Rego Swallows the Poisoned Apple painting, 1995, Pastel on paper, mounted on aluminum, 178 x 150 cm

If religion and the science debated the abortion subject, it should be create the right laws on the subject.” It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.” ( H.L. Mencken, Notebooks, 1956 ).

What to some authors, including Elisabeth Badinter, called “the invention of motherhood” a romantic idea that begins to spread at the end of the eighteenth century and that draws a woman fully realized in their role as mother, all her kindness and sentimentality, will cross with the purpose of political power, which for the first time, will defend the unborn child, not now because of faith but for reasons of state. The population becomes ideology ( then as now, it was necessary to increase the birth rate), motherhood is explicitly regulated and voluntary abortion declared contrary to patriotism source abortion of a pregnant woman with or without your consent is punishable by imprisonment.

The case of Roe v.s wade in 1970, United States of the Supreme Court A grande viragem (mesmo se, já desde 1967, a legislação britânica fosse bastante tolerante na matéria) ocorre em 1970, quando, nos Estados Unidos, o Supremo Tribunal, no caso Roe versus Wade, decide a favor de a mulher poder e allowed women to practice an abortion for any reason. This was the most controversial legal cases in U.S.A . Today Jane Roe supports and leaders the movement called Pro-Life.

The abortion issues do not seem to gain a negative reaction from the scientific community (this is from a life death point of view).

However anyone’s opinion on the “right to the body” subject, and despite of the present debate on the status of women and the fetus in a way or another, what is undeniable is the fact that women have the power to chooseEnquanto assim for, não há legislação . “Of course abortion isn’t right. But it is even less right to bring unwanted children into lifelong suffering and to strip women of their choice. Making abortion illegal is not the way to prevent it. There is a much larger picture that starts with much deeper roots.” (Anonymous, ).

In recent years traditional Christianity has created changes in comparison to the feminist movement. The amount of ordained female clergy increased to 21,000 ( from 1977 to 1986) , with the significant increases having happened in the mainline Protestant denominations Among Roman Catholics, one-fourth of those admitted in theological schools are women.

Thus various sections of U.S.A religion, such as the rest of the community, have been controlled in varying degrees both by feminism.” The way in which feminists (especially women) address such dissonance has influences on social psychological theory and for pastoral considerations.

Chapter III: The women of the 21st Century

Women’s education

Women’s lifestyle has been changing through the decades, not only their careers, education an

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